High prices paid for low-end laptops

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Pns: It is alleged that a syndicate of the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) is involved in purchasing 50,000 low-end laptops at high prices instead of the high performance ones for multimedia classrooms in 20 districts.
Primary and mass education ministry and DPE sources said the DPE had purchased 50,000 Core i3 laptops of the Dell and Lenovo brands recently at a cost of Tk 261.85 crore under the Third Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP-3), at a price which could buy upgraded versions (core i5 and i7).
The cost per computer was Tk 52,200, while it was learnt that the current market price of such machines of these brands were around Tk 34,000, sources said preferring anonymity.
DPE sources said, in the past, they had purchased Core i5 brand laptops for multimedia classrooms but this time the DPE bought Core i3 versions for reasons unknown.
DPE said five organisations -- Flora Telecom Ltd, Computer Sources Ltd, Global Brand Private Ltd, Smart Technologies (BD) Ltd, Thakral Information System Private Limited supplied 30,778 Dell laptops and 19,222 Lenovo laptops in eight lots.
Sources said the lower-grade machines were unlikely to be of much use when teachers were not getting full benefits of the Core i5 laptops being used in the multimedia classrooms.
In May 2016, the DPE invited sealed bids from eligible bidders for the supply of 50,000 laptops. The government purchased them to ensure quality education by improving the learning and teaching system through modern equipment.
On December 19, the DPE issued a notification, awarding the five organisations the contract to supply the laptops in eight lots.
Of them, Computer Source Ltd supplied 6,644 Dell Vostro 3468 laptops under Lot 1 at a per unit price of USD 666.00.
Flora Telecom obtained three Lots and supplied 7,676 quantity Dell brand Vostro 3468 model laptops under Lot 2 at a per unit price of USD 665.00 and also supplied Lenovo B40-80 model 6321 laptops under Lot 4 with per unit price USD 678.00 and 6491 Lenovo laptops under Lot 7 at a unit price of USD 662.00.
Thakral Information System Private Limited and Digital Technologies Ltd supplied 6,410 pieces of the Lenovo B40-80 under Lot 3 and at a per unit price of USD 667.00.
Global Brand Private Ltd supplied 6,804 pieces of the Dell Vostro 3468 model under Lot 5 at a unit price USD 663.00.
Smart Technologies (BD) Ltd supplied 4,848 laptops of Dell Vostro 3468 model under Lot 2 at a per unit price USD 664.00 and 4,806 laptops of Dell under Lot 8 with per unit price USD 661.00.
The average price per unit of laptops from the eight Lots stands at USD 665.75, which works out to over 50,000 per unit.
Besides the Lot price, there are other costs like inland transportation and other services that are added to the unit price.
Sources said it was unwise to buy low-grade laptops at higher prices for multimedia classrooms where high resolution of contents are needed for teaching students.
They said the technologies were changing rapidly and when the bid was invited, the Core i7 model was already available in the market.
As low-end computers had been bought, they were unlikely to provide optimal services in multimedia classrooms, they said, adding that the purchase of inferior computers at high prices amounted to waste of money.

Senior DPE officials were reluctant to give information about the purchase of the laptops.
When asked about the high price of the computers, Mahesh Chandra Roy, director (Finance), DPE, told The Independent last week, “The price is not high. It naturally goes up when it is purchased through tender.”
Replying to another query about the low grade of the laptops purchased instead of the latest version, he said, “It is done through tender. But these are good quality laptops for multimedia classrooms. They will be distributed by October this year.” He also said that a six-member committee was now working to inspect the specifications and other technical aspects of the laptops before distribution.
The 50,000 laptops will be distributed in 20 districts. Of them, Dinajpur will get 3,041 and Rangpur will get 3,630 from Lot-1, while Rajshahi will get 2,928, and Bogra 4,748 from Lot-2.
Khulna will get 2,649 laptops, Jessore 2,560, and Kushtia 1,201 from Lot-3.
Mymensingh will get 3,294, Tangail 2,185 and Munshiganj 842 from Lot-4.
Faridpur will get 2,742, Dhaka 1673, and Brahmanbaria 2,389 from Lot-5.
Patuakhali will get 1,566 and Barisal 3,248 from Lot-6.
Sylhet will get 3,855 laptops, Chittagong 2,062 and Cox’s Bazar 574 from Lot-7.
Comilla will get 3515, and Feni 1,291 laptops from Lot-8.
On September 4, 2011, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project to ensure quality education by improving the learning and teaching system.
This is not the first allegation against the DPE relating to laptops purchases. In 2014, the DPE bought 3,930 laptops with pirated software and many schools failed to develop multimedia contents as the laptops were either out of order or malfunctioned.
There are other allegations of tender irregularities against DPE regarding the purchase of plastic tables and chairs for different schools.
The tender committee has not been able to complete the process yet, as the World Bank has raised questions about the tender process.
Mahesh Chandra Roy said, “We have not been able to hold the meeting yet for the purchase of plastic furniture for schools. The World Bank has some questions about the tender process. We hope a meeting will be held soon in this regard.”

PNS/Tamanna Khan



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